Webcurios 20/11/15

Reading Time: 33 minutes

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John Harwood, CC https://www.flickr.com/photos/john_t_harwood/2853642055

Well that was vile, wasn’t it? Let’s accept that there’s little or nothing edifying I can say about Paris and associated issues and move on – except that I was watching Question Time last night and a few things struck me which I will share in passing:

  1. You know what? I don’t know enough about any of this to have a cast-iron position on airstrikes, the Middle East, Islam or any of the rest of it, and neither do you (unless you have access to Cabinet-level intelligence, perhaps,or your an expert in the millennial sh1tstorm that is the whole region). Just bear this in mind.

  2. There was someone, I forget who, on Question Time last night, who got annoyed with someone for ‘muddying the waters’ by bringing up the wider Middle East in the context of this. Leaving aside the bare-bones idiocy of that position, these are waters that are filthy with blood and oil and money; you can’t muddy them, because they are fcuking murky already.

  3. I read someone writing on Twitter somewhere that ‘this is weather now; you can’t stop weather, you just mitigate against it’. That struck me as depressingly accurate.

Anyway, noone needs or wants this, so by way of light relief let me share with you a brief vignette from my life last weekend which may amuse.

Odd, eh? I mean, I’m not into spanking (too much information, I know, but I feel it’s important to clarify these things at the outset), but it’s sort of curious, right? Even curioser – on the reverse were the name and bank details of one Ishmael Skyes, who I obviously Googled later that evening when drunk and discovered was the doyenne and coordinator of a certain London spanking and CP (Corporal Punishment, apparently, with a tendency towards school uniforms and very British discipline) community, which was holding a spanking party in South London that very Sunday, tickets to which were £20. Not only this, but the party was being held under the aegis of a certain insitution, active since the mid-80s, specialising in this sort of school-themed fetishism. The institution’s name?

The Muir Academy

You know when sometimes it just feels like the universe is speaking to you? I mean WHAT ARE THE CHANCES that I would find a flyer on the tube for some weird S&M fetish club based around a school of punishment and domination bearing my actual name? I have been properly weirded out by this all week, and have avoided speaking to my Dad in case there’s some sort of dark family history I’ve never been told about. Christ knows what the universe is saying, in any case. It’s probably telling me I need punishing, which is pretty accurate as it happens.

Anyway, that was something non-atrocity related which happened this week, and which I hope has somewhat lightened your mood in what has been, in no uncertain terms, a pig of a week. Without any further ado, let’s plunge headlong into the lost property cupboard of the internet – remember, you’re going to have to put SOMETHING on or you’re doing games in your pants. THIS IS WEB CURIOS!

By Alex Malikov



  • Google Plus, Redux!: Just when you thought it was totally dead, Goog…no, let’s be honest, it’s still dead, isn’t it? I mean, maybe not dead dead, but certainly dead enough that if you’re one of the poor sods who does ‘persuading people to buy stuff via the medium of the web’ it’s still going to be pretty low down your list of priorities. Anyway, this week Google RELAUNCHED (sort of) Google+, with a renewed focus on COMMUNITIES and COLLECTIONS (photos, basically), which is basically how the few people (OK, OK, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS) who use it have decided it should be used. Which means, in the main, that it’s still of little or no import to most of you; that said, from the point of view of due diligence it makes sense to check it out to see if there’s anyone waxing lyrical about the joys of biscuits or whatever it is you’re shilling – who knows, you may be able to get some cut-price INFLUENCER MARKETING out of it. Here’s a slightly less glibly reductionist view of the whole thing, should you want one
  • Facebook Launches New Tools for Non-Profits: Well this is a generally good thing. Being tested with large partners only at the moment, but one would imagine rolling out to all companies with verified not-for-profit status in the not-too-distant future, this is basically a big ‘DONATE NOW’ button for Pages and Posts, allowing users to do one-click giving within Facebook – and, not-coincidentally I’m sure, allowing not-for-profits to buy ‘DONATE NOW’ ads with really good analytics and targeting. Twitter’s been talking about doing this for 5 years with no sign of it actually happening. Bloody hell, Twitter. FYI, if you’re a non-profit and want to hack this sort of stuff across social platforms RIGHT NOW, you could do worse than try Hashtag Pay, which cobbles together something from the PayPal API to much the same effect.
  • Paid Stickers On Facebook Messenger: Notable only for the fact that this is almost certainly the start of an era in which any brand will soon be able to knock up its own shoddy promo stickers and flog them to idiots on the platform. It’s STRATEGY-writing / predictions season, so why not throw this into your suggestions mix? Oh, yes, because it’s STUPID. 
  • Facebook Testing Profile Search: Not really notable for brands in any way I can immediately discern, but still – Facebook’s apparently testing the ability for users to search for stuff on another user’s profile Page – meaning that if you’re SURE that someone you know wrote something 5 years ago which you can use to brand them a HYPOCRITE for something they are saying now, you will eventually be able to track it down. GREAT! To be honest there probably are some slightly rubbish community management things there…oooh, hang on, depending on exactly how it works there may then be the opportunity to run scripted searches for keywords across, say, the profiles of all the fans of a brand’s page to search for SUPERENDORSERS or somesuch. Who knows? I don’t, so I’ll stop speculating. 
  • The Facebook Breakup Settings Thing: Coming this weekend to a Sunday supplement near YOU: a series of articles designed to leaven the unremitting horror of world news by taking a SIDEWAYS LOOK at the quirky, kooky world of modern dating mores, inspired by this latest announcement from Facebook which says it will now give you options to limit the amount of stuff you see from someone who you’ve recently split up with (based on you or they changing their relationship status). It’ll let you choose to see fewer of their updates, photos, etc – all stuff you can already do on the platform, but designed for idiots who don’t understand how all this stuff works already. Actually, in fairness, what this seems to show is Facebook sort of admitting that noone really understands how current filtering on the platform works, so I take back the ‘idiots’ thing (just). No implications for brands that I can think of, probably. Maybe you can? Don’t tell me, please. 
  • Instagram Cuts Its API Access: As someone explained to me earlier this week, this is basically what Twitter did when it blocked third party apps from displaying Tweets (apart from the ones it approved); the idea being that it will weed out shonky, browser-based Instagram viewing / fiddling platforms – and, conveniently, all those platforms on which ads don’t currently show. Good news for advertisers, bad news for people trying to cobble together fun, Instagram-related stuff online. 
  • Twitter Contemplating Less Useless Polls: You know how the current Twitter polls, with their binary options, are RUBBISH? Well Twitter is apparently testing ways of making them better – more options to choose from (good), the option to include emoji in the option copy (inevitable), the option to set durations on polls (good)…effectively when they bother to implement all this stuff, which they should have done when they launched the service, it might actually end up being a halfway-decent datagathering tool. Maybe.
  • Twitter Testing Multi-Emoji Reactions: Since the world has given us something else to get angry and upset about, everyone seems to have calmed down about the Twitter hearts/stars thing (maybe it wasn’t that important in the first place?); they’re looking at addressing it, though, via that exploit that everyone found the other week whereby you can in fact set any emoji you like to stand in for the ‘heart’ icon. Effectively they’re looking at a Slack-like interface that will let you select from a suite of potential reactions to a post – each of which, I imagine, will be counted as a unit of engagement in the back-end but which will give the cosmetic illusion of differentiated response. So just like Facebook is testing, then, sort-of, Ah, feature consolidation. Did anyone predict that as a big thing for 2015?
  • Twitter No Longer Displaying Who’s Behind Promoted Tweets: I don’t seem to see enough Promoted Tweets to have been able to tell if this is a thing yet, but if so it’s an interesting move; if, as the article suggests, Promoted Tweets will now simply say ‘Promoted’ rather than ‘Promoted By X’, it will make it a lot harder for consumers annoyed by being targeted to block, unfollow, etc, accounts (brands) whose ads irk them. Which, if you’re a faceless corporation rather than an actual person, is probably pretty good news – rejoice!
  • Vine Launches Audio Remix Feature: Quite a nice feature new to Vine – you can now take the audio from any existing Vine and use it as the soundtrack to your own – meaning all that CONTENT REMIXING which the kids are so fond of (spoiler, though: you’re a bank/building society/car insurance provider – noone is going want to remix your content, mate, noone. Not even the weirdo competition obsessives) is now much easier.
  • Snapchat Launches Verified Accounts: You a famous whose fanbase is all children? No, of course you’re not, no famous people read this rubbish. You might, though, work for a company which represents famouses on occasion, in which case this may be of use / note – the idea being that it will make it easier for fans to find famouses on  Snapchat, even if the famous in question is using an alias or a silly name. 
  • Snapchat Selling Selfie Lenses For $1 A Pop: See my comment about the Facebook Messenger Stickers above and repeat, but with a touch more near-middle-age ennui.
  • Making Gifs on Tumblr Now Much Easier: There’s a really simple gifmaker now native to the platform. Had a play with it and it is SUPER-SIMPLE – just so’s you know, though, the primary purpose of it so far as far as I can see is for a LOT of gifs of men ‘pleasuring’ themselves. There’s a certain grim inevitability about this – as soon as there is a new video platform, that video platform will be full of video of erect penises. We are so proud! It’s almost touching really. 
  • Gifs on KIK: Pretty sure none of you care about KIK because, well, you’re not University students, but in case you do then this is HOT NEWS. 
  • A Really Rather Good Guide To Facebook Remarketing: On the off chance that you’re NOT working for a big agency and don’t have minions to know how this stuff works so you don’t have to, this is a super-useful, comprehensive and hands-on guide to doing remarketing (you know, pixeltracking-based ad targeting) on Facebook. Not only useful w/r/t that platform, but a generaly decent overview as to what remarketing is and how it generally works. Really helpful. 
  • Aston Martin on Soundcloud: I always wang on about Soundcloud as a GREAT AND UNDEREXPLOITED thing, and noone listens to me EVER (possibly because I am often talking to myself). Anyway, this is Aston Martin’s Soundcloud which is basically just slightly ASMR-ish car sounds. I don’t even like cars (I don’t, shamefully, even have a license), but the engine sounds and stuff on here are quite cool (no, really). Just wish they had more doors closing with a satisfying *CHUNK* sound (you know what I mean). Niche, but smart when you consider the car nuts who are their fanboy constituency. 
  • The Best Tedious Website I’ve Seen In Ages: I have NO IDEA what ACME WORLD do – although judging by the name, I’m guessing they supply Wil E Coyote with exploding birdfeed and suspiciously non-lethal TNT – but their website is really rather nice. Included mainly as a demonstration of the fact that just because a business does unconscionably dull stuff to make money it doesn’t mean that it can’t make attractive websites. 
  • Find Your Swede: Cute idea by the Swedish tourist board, inviting potential visitors (or indeed anyone really) to hook the site up to their Instagram account – answer some questions, it will ‘analyse’ the answers and spit out your perfect Swedish match, with whom you can then chat, browse their pictures, etc. It doesn’t say this explicitly, but I’m pretty sure they’re playing on the commonly-held belief that all Swedes are statuesque blonde sex-maniacs. Try it, you might get lucky. 
  • The Condomoji: Look, it’s the word of the bloody year; we’ve had emoji ordering, emoji room service, now we have Durex launching a fake campaign to get a condom emoji included in the next unicode update…can we please declare a moratorium on emoji-related advermarketingprwank? No? I hate you.
  • The Nadir of Branded Content: Well, so far at least. This is an ACTUAL SONG made my ACTUAL HIPHOP GROUP the Detroit Grand Pubahs. Times must be hard, guys. So much to not love about this, not least the belief that the horrific ‘catchphrase’ that is the song’s ‘hook’ will ever catch on. It won’t, will it? Please let it not.  





  • The Global Terrorism Index: Leading with the grimly well-timed 2015 edition of the research project, which garnered headlines this week for showing that in fact Boko Haram is currently topping the league table to the biggest terrorist bastards worldwide RIGHT NOW. Good to know it’s not just one set of dreadful people, then. As some of you know, I used to work with these people – I’d include it anyway, though, as the data is fascinating and I very much like the way they visualise it.

  • The British Museum on Google: Technically last week’s news, but give me a break. Take a wander round the British Museum, courtesy the wonderful Google Cultural Institute – a very relaxing way to spend 10 minutes with a cup of tea, should you need soothing momentarily.

  • Twitch Does Painting: Or at least Twitch did painting – it’s unclear whether the thing’s finished or is just on hiatus at the time of typing. Hey ho. Anyway, this is actually a promo by Instapaper, but I like the artwanky nature of it so it’s going in this section – they placed a canvas and some robot drawing setup in a room, hooked it up to Twitch and let the internet’s ID come up with some sort of collaborative masterpiece (mess). The opportunities for this sort of thing are almost endless – I await the eventual culmination in ‘Twitch Does Parenting’, an 18-year experiment in crowd-directed childrearing. Actually, does anyone have Desmond Morris’ phone number?

  • The Watson Trend Predictor: IBM’s ‘Rent-An-AI’ Watson (one week it does cookery, the next shopping) tries its hand at predicting shopping trends – effectively this is a riff on Google trends but rather than using search terms as predictors it’s instead purporting to use a whole host of more sophisticated textual analysis and parsing tools to work out what your sticky offspring are going to be clamouring for in the hours before you force yourself, harassed and indebted, to bow to their tyrannical demands in exchange for the probably illusory promise of JUST A SECOND’S PEACE, DAMNIT. Ah, Christmas.

  • Facets: A new polygonal-ish image each day, hi res and wallpaperable. No more, no less, but sometimes you just want nice things.

  • Mirrorlake: Beautiful little arthackproject by Katie Rose, who hacked this together in a week – Mirror Lake creates random, procedurally generated little landscapes in perfect miniature, with a new one born every two minutes. So, so hypnotic – I promise you, have a click and get entranced by all the miniature lo-fi beauty. Sort of reminiscent of the sort of graphical style you used to see on Macs in the 80s, for those of you old enough to recall.

  • FairTaxtown: Interesting project, this. A small town in South Wales is, as part of a BBC documentary, investigating whether its small businesses can take advantage of the same tax loopholes enjoyed by large corporations in their constant “but we’re within the letter of the law!” battle with HMRC to avoid paying any more than about 1% corporation tax – the idea being not to avoid tax, but to raise awareness of the scale of the practice and what should be done to stop it. This site is all about the project and how other towns / local associations can get involved. If you’re into tax and politics and stuff (and WHO ISN’T, RIGHT KIDS?) then this is worth a click.

  • Text Yourself A Blog: I like this idea a lot. A service which, if you text copy to a certain phone number, will chuck it up on a blog for you. Currently US-only, but expanding to work with international numbers soon, their blurb says: “Everything you text to us gets saved to your Textingway blog, and you can share the link immediately. There isn’t even a password (to forget) for your blog, we send you a text message to verify it’s you whenever you need to login to the website” – I think you could have quite a lot of fun using this as a sort of stream-of-consciousness record of nights out, etc, if you were so inclined. Though, er, you could just write notes in your phone or something.

  • Sprout: Pencils with seeds in the end. Finish the pencil, plant the end, water it a bit, watch stuff grow. Simple and lovely and ripe for a promosteal I think.

  • A Tool To Deceive and Slaughter: Saddeningly nowhere near as sinister as it at first sounds, this is instead a very smart little techartproject whereby the object in question, a black cube of rather threatening appearance, continually tries to auction itself off on eBay – “Every ten minutes the black box pings a server on the internet via the ethernet connection to check if it is for sale on the eBay. If its auction has ended or it has sold, it automatically creates a new auction of itself. If a person buys it on eBay, the current owner is required to send it to the new owner. The new owner must then plug it into ethernet, and the cycle repeats itself.” It’ s not clear how many people have bought it in its lifespan, but I’m guessing it’s not exactly loads; still, love the idea.

  • Sandwichfunk: A selection of recipes with accompanying soundtracks – this is a GREAT idea, and the sort of thing that I am really glad that Jamie Oliver didn’t think of first (you can just imagine, right?). Nothing particularly fancy – and yes, it’s American so you have to deal with the irritating ‘cups’ thing – but the concept is SO NICE and the playlists are compiled with obvious thought and joy. Has a brand done this sort of thing yet? I feel they must have done, but if so it’s passed me by. Although, Christ, all I can think of is a sort of dreadful attempt at cultural appropriation by Phileas Fogg snacks, so perhaps it’s for the best.

  • All The Flags: So yes, if you were one of the people referenced at the very top of this who spent last weekend railing at other people you may or may not know on the internet for the appropriateness or otherwise of their expression of feeling regarding The Bad Thing, WELL DONE YOU! This site is for YOU – All The Flags is a site which lets you convert your profile picture to one which has the flags of every single country affected by Daesh (see the long reads section) superimposed on each other (and hence one which looks like a total mess). Makes a variety of simple points, elegantly – post this one to Facebook and stand back and watch and enjoy.

  • Ad Replacer: I really do like this. Ad Replacer is a Chrome extension which takes the ‘related content’ adboxes which you simply can’t seem to escape anymore online and replaces them with links to ACTUAL NEWS – so rather than Outbrain feeding you terrifying images of worryingly ‘roidal men accompanied by captions like “You’ll never guess his startling sex secret!” (you really won’t, though), you will instead get, er, the news. Which, on reflection, sounds HORRIBLY depressing so perhaps best to stick to Outbrain after all.

  • Goodblock: Seeing as we’re doing ad blockers, Goodblock is a standard ad blocker but one which each day offers users the opportunity to opt-in to adverts; the kicker being that the ads in question are delivered through a network which raises money for charities. Hard not to like this, really.

  • The Glitched Afghan Rugs of Faig Ahmed: Beautiful and I want one.

  • The Hard Times: Basically The Onion for the punk / hipster set, Hard Times sneers at and skewers…well…people like us, probably. Hey ho. ‘“Nothing really offends me” says living embodiment of white privilege’ made me laugh quite a lot – it’s all like that, basically, so if that tickled you then you will probably like the rest of it too.

  • Stop Spam With Snowden: This is delicious, though sadly the link takes you to a writeup of it as there’s no other online home for the project that I can find. A nameless programmer decided to punish people for doing stupid things like posting their phone numbers on Twitter by setting up a program which scrapes said phone numbers and then bombards them with cat spam – spam which can ONLY be unsubscribed from by said spamee tweeting Edward Snowdon. DO YOU SEE?!?!? I am a massive, massive fan of text spam – a mate of mine inexplicably started getting texts from a number offering him pictures of ‘LITTLE CAT BALLS’ (their caps) earlier this year, which is one of the most pleasingly baffling things I’ve seen in ages.

  • The Selfie Arm: This is all in Japanese so I have no idea if it’s part of a TV show or just some bloke’s pet project; in any case, this is a big extended arm which you can attach to your existing limbs to facilitate self-portrait taking without the need of one of those bloody sticks. You can probably nick this for a novelty one-off piece of clothing, retailers, and get some low-value column inches in the idiot press. YOU’RE WELCOME!

  • Lampster: I really want to hate  this – look, it’s a novelty desklamp which is designed to look like a cross between AN Other AAA videogame character and one of the terror sperm from London 2012, which has inexplicably raised $300k to date on Kickstarter with a month left to go, and is basically the embodiment of the fact that, seemingly, white nerdboys run the world in 2015, and they are planning to sell accessories for it for god’s sakes – but LOOK HOW CUTE IT IS!!! Oh, God, I am dreadful. Sorry.

  • Google Trends For Reddit: So, er, Reddit trends then. Works in exactly the same way – though because it’s a  hacked together project by FiveThirtyEight it doesn’t work perfectly – and could be useful if you want to gather some (pretty spurious) data from a largely young, male online community to support whatever crap you’re proposing. I imagine, though I’ve not yet had a go, that the trends about gamergate are pretty bleak reading.

  • Pattr: Totally anonymous private messaging service, creating throwaway chatrooms with optional SSL encryption available for just $1 a time – WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE SUSPICIOUS ABOUT USING THIS? Nothing, your honour.

  • The Best Balaclavas Ever: Not, admittedly, a hotly contested category in my experience, but even given the low bar to entry these are pretty great. Planning on going skiing or committing a robbery anytime soon? Why not do so whilst wearing a full-face mask which makes you look like, er, a pink leopard with matching ears. These will be ALL THE RAGE in Cham come January (they really won’t).

  • Expresii: Yet to launch, but if you’re a digital artist-type person then this soon-to-be-released kit will apparently let you paint beautiful oriental-style brushwork watercolours, which I personally am a total sucker for and which therefore I would like more people to make more of thanks.

  • Godzilla Simulator: Probably the single-biggest argument I have yet seen for owning a VR headset. HOW MUCH FUN DOES THIS LOOK?

  • Pokegraphs: All of the colour palettes of all of the Pokemon – GRAPHED. I have a very real feeling that when all of this is dust and radioactive ash and a few lonely humans are eking out an existence amongst the fallout and the isotopes, some of them will still be playing bloody Pokemon.

  • Sourcecode Poetry: Celebrating poetry in source code, which if you’re a particular type of geek will be…er…poetry to you.

  • Metaratr: A website which basically just fires random Soundclouds at you on a rolling basis – you can rate them, cycle through them, etc, at will. At the moment it is playing me a truly HORRIFIC piece of amateur karaoke crooning by someone singing in Spanish – here it is, it’s AWFUL – but it does occasionally throw up some decent stuff and it’s quite an interesting way of opening up unusual musical sinkholes if you’ve some time to kill.

  • Dbot: Douchebot is a chatbot which sits out phrases submitted by women which they in turn have been sent by men in online chats. You will be unsurprised to learn that it doesn’t show men online in a particularly great light. WHODATHUNKIT?!

  • Cash Music: “CASH Music is a nonprofit organization focused on educating & empowering artists & their fans to foster a viable & sustainable future for music.” Basically if you’re a musician and you want help working out how to navigate the fairly unpleasant and choppy waters of the music industry in 2015, this is a GREAT platform, available free in perpetuity, to help you manage all sorts of things from royalties to catalogue to merchandise and beyond. Really very helpful and a great idea.

  • Make The Censors Watch Paint Drying: Pleasingly silly Kickstarter, seeking to raise funds to make the longest possible film of paint drying on a wall – the idea being that any film submitted to the BBFC for classification needs to be watched by a censor in its entirety, meaning that at the time of writing someone is going to have to sit through 6h+ of slowly-drying emulsion. Censorship SUCKS! YEAH! TAKE THAT, THE MAN! Poor the censormonkey who has to watch it, though (if they are smart they will liveblog it and become a 3h Buzzfeed celebrity – “This man watched paint dry for 6 hours – his reaction won the internetzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”).

  • These Futures: A Twitter bot which alternates between tweeting old futurepredictions from notable people, current futurepredictions from other people on Twitter, and algorithmically generated predictions cobbled together from keywords and stuff. Silly and occasionally surprisingly profound.

  • Shin Li Art: You’ll either love this or find it profoundly saccharine (no prizes for guessing where I fall here), but this Instagram account, curated by two lovers split between New York and Shanghai, does contain some really nicely composed pictures riffing on the ‘DIVIDED BUT OUR HEARTS ARE STILL TOGETHER’ thing and, as with much of the stuff Imperica brings you every week for FREE out of the goodness of its strange, cyborg heart, hugely nickable if you’re a creative or art director lacking in coupley inspiration.

  • The Gobelins Sound Experiments: Gobelins is a visual / graphical educational establishment in Paris – this is a collection of little digital soundtoys hacked together by students from there over four days in October. Some of them are better than others, but I’m a sucker for little audiovisualdigitalinteractivetoythings like this.

  • The Mapbox Studio: If you do, or could do, anything with maps and data, then this is a really, really useful announcement, which, to quote them, means “you can build a complete map with global data and deeply custom design choices from the ground up, or start with a friendly preset. It’s easy to pick up and grows with you as you master the skills of cartography.” Which is nice, if you’re into that sort of thing.

  • All Of The Satellites: This purports to be a realtime map of satellites, all zooming about above us and KEEPING US SAFE and stuff. Except, and this sort of scared me a bit when I thought about it and so obviously I am sharing the slightly unsettling thought with you, it’s obviously not ALL the satellites, is it? I mean, there are the secret military ones which won’t be on there, and then there are the privately-launched supervillain satellites…DEAR GOD, we are being surveilled EVERYWHERE. Still.





  • Dog Rates: Every wanted to follow a Twitter account which arbitrarily ‘rates’ photos of other people’s dogs out of 10? OH GOOD! Some of these actually had me in tears, and I hate dogs (actually not true, you have to care to hate).

  • Wikipedia Pageview Analytics API: If you or your clients need or want to keep track of how popular your Page on Wikipedia is, this is SUPERUSEFUL. Generally worth a look if you do REPUTATION MANAGEMENT-type stuff.

  • Candy: A really interesting idea, this, for organising links and online information you find – sort of like Evernote, but with a more visual interface (and doubtless without the creeping Evernote problem of trying to do EVERYTHING and thereby not really doing the one thing that everyone which uses it actually wanted in the first place). I very much like the drag-and-drop idea arranging element of it; if you’re in the market for something to help you collate and arrange ideas, you could do worse than try this one.

  • Miscegenation: Not feeling quite bleak enough about the world this week? Well this will put the fecal cherry on the sewerage cake – a series of photographs by Donna Pinckley, depicting multiracial couples accompanied by phrases they’ve had spoken to them by ‘helpful’ others. WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG????

  • The VR Guitar: I’ve held off from posting too much (if any) Motion Leap stuff on here as I’m still not 100% convinced it’s not vaporware. That said, if this tech demo showcasing how a virtual guitar would work using the tech is anything to go by, this is going to be MENTAL. Seriously, take a look and just imagine the virtual sessions you could have with digital musicians and stuff – screw Guitar Hero, this stuff is Better Than Life-esque.

  • The Minecraft Hour of Code: As part of next month’s ‘Hour of Code’ global jamboree, here’s Minecraft-themed tutorial to coax your children into learning a trade which, if you bully them enough, might just make them a millionaire by their late teens and thus free you to indulge in that late-40s binge-drinking spree unhindered.

  • China From Above: Just beautiful photos, these.

  • Blackout: One of the more interesting Kickstarters I saw this week, Blackout is a film currently seeking funding which, if they get the money, will be a sort of interactive VR moviegameplaything set in a New York subway car – viewers will be able to walk through the car, listening to people’s stories, piecing together narratives and watching a variety of individual and linked strands come together, all directed by themselves as they virtually wander through the environment. No idea whether the concept will actually work, but I like the ambition of it.

  • Mixed Up Hiphop: A Twitter bot firing out mangled amalgams of similes from old school hiphop tracks. Some GOLD comes out of this, not least “you’ll be last like a blueberry”, which is now my go-to dismissive cuss from hereon in.

  • Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery: A truly exhaustive collection of scanned covers of old horror comics, which if you’re in the market for wonderfully kitchy illustrations just RIPE for recaptioning will be right up your street (and which are pretty cool even if you’re not to be honest).

  • FinWake: I never got on with Joyce, I feel stupid for saying so, but I hated Portrait of the Artist, and abandoned Ulysses 100-odd pages in – I’m sorry James, but what passes for stream-of-consciousness internal monologue in your world is just tiresome in mine. Then again, he’s an internationally acclaimed author and I’m a largely unemployed webmong, so who wins? ME, because I have plumbing and central heating and the ability to buy halloumi at any hour of the day or night from cornershops. Glad that’s settled. Anyway, this is an online annotated version of Joyce’s most famously obscure and knotty work, the (allegedly unreadable; I’ve obviously never tried) Finnegan’s Wake. If you know anyone unlucky enough to be wrestling with this beast, this is a good resource – but my GOD it is dense.

  • People Having A Crazy Wild Time In Late-60s South Africa: Wow, they really knew how to let their hair down. Mildly NSFW due to comedy 60s nudity, but more notable for the very real atmosphere of sleaze that permeates them (also, had no idea that Japanese tourism to South Africa in the 60s was such a big thing – unexpected).

  • The Telepresence Parental Robot: Not a new idea, the telepresence robot, but this is notable for the fact that it’s being marketed to upper middle-class parents as a way to keep check on their offspring while they’re out of town. Can you imagine? If your kids are stupid enough to actually let themselves be surveilled by an iPad strapped to a Segway, they have bigger problems than their potential drink and drugs intake, is all I’m saying. I do love the idea of the iPad squawking impotently at a teen’s retreating back, though (“Andrew! Andrew, why are your eyes all red? And why are there people all over the house? ANDREW! That looks like coca-” *Andrew slams the door, leaving the segwaybot impotantly trapped outside, screaming “ANDREEEEEEW!!!!” until its batteries give out*).

  • Music For Cats: The latest in what appears to be a weekly attempt to get some money off someone who works for a petfood company – this week we have a whole website compiling music apparently designed to appeal to cats, the cloth-eared little hooligans. Christ alone knows why this exists, but, and I say this with real feeling, COME ON, WHISKAS, GET ON THIS FFS. I only want a bit of recognition *sobs*.

  • Freck Yourself: Realistic (so they claim) freckle makeup. On Kickstarter. We need this, do we? Really? Well unless you back it soon we’re not going to get it, so HURRY UP.

  • Cove: This is a really interesting idea, I think. Cove is an app which allows users to record emotional diaries of their lives – so far, so unremarkable – but which allows them to do so through the medium of music. Each day, you can use the app to compose a short musical refrain to express how you’re feeling at that time; whilst obviously the quality of what you produce will depend in large part on your talent, and the app’s interface, I really like the idea of using something like this to create a ‘life in a week’ musical portrait of a defined period in someone’s life. A really nice concept.

  • Click Here To Save The World: Click it. Keep clicking. Go all the way to the end. Lovely little piece of work by Nathalie Gordon; I actually think this sort of mechanic is underused and quite effective, though I appreciate that’s based on an anecdotal sample of one and so therefore is possibly total bollocks.

  • Real Or Satire: Sadly not a tool for determining whether this week’s nightmarish startup idea (cf Rumblr) is a fake or not, this is instead a tool which identifies whether an article is satire based on its url (I am presuming it does a little more than checking to see whether it’s from The Onion or The Daily Mash). Bookmark it and save it for when you meet the stupids on Facebook.

  • Captured on Camera: The best subreddit I’ve stumbled across in a while, this is a collection of clips of people wandering into shot and then attempting to style it out as best they can. Golden, some of these.

  • The Personal Tattoo Machine: Sadly this doesn’t appear to be for sale at the moment, but SURELY it can only be a matter of time. Designed by…er…actually I have no idea, the site’s pretty unforthcoming, but anyway, WHOEVER it’s by, the personal tattoo machine is a one-off proof of concept-type thing which is ergonomically crafted to enable people to quickly and easily tattoo themselves. IMAGINE THE FUN YOU COULD HAVE!!! IMAGINE THE REGRETS!!!! I want these on sale – no refills, throwaway biodegradable parts, for that one-off “I MUST COMMEMORATE THIS NOW” moment that just can’t wait. So much love for this.

  • The Hasbro Robot Cat: This is not, it would seem, a spoof. Hasbro is now selling terrifying feline robot companions, presumably to act as companions to people who are both lonely and who don’t feel up to caring for an actual pet. Which is, you know, nice, but LOOK AT HOW CREEPY THE FCUKERS ARE. Just imagine those cold dead eyes sizing you up and plotting to kill you – so just like an actual cat, then. I imagine that they are fluffy and yet deathly cold to the touch. Chilling. Definitely one to buy your least-favourite godchild (NB I love all my godchildren equally, honest).

  • The Menorah Bong: Because I know some of you are Jewish and so will LOVE this (you may not love it, but still).

  • One Block: This week’s ‘raising the bar for interactive journalism’ link comes in the shape of this from New York Magazine, which tracks the history and stories of one block in New York City’s Bed-Stuy district in Brooklyn and uses this to tell stories both personal and city-wide about race and gentrification and culture and…oh, this is SO GOOD! There’s such a depth of material in here, and it’s a genuine pleasure to explore. If you do anything publishing-ish, you really should check this out – it’s a really, really impressive piece of work.

  • Izivibe: And because this wouldn’t be Web Curios without at least one unpleasant link about masturbation, here’s Izivibe, which turns your phone into a vibrator. Like, it’s an actual phone case with a bit that sticks out that you put into your vagina. If you have one. Or up your bum, I suppose. Would you do that? Would you? Would anyone? SO MANY QUESTIONS, to which I’m fairly confident I don’t actually want to know the answers at all.





  • Thought Leadershit: This was made by some friends of mine with minimal input from me. Inspired by THIS astounding piece of pretentious guffery, the generator will churn out thousands of different prentious-sounding titles for social media marketing thinkpieces, many of which are frighteningly plausible. “Simulacra and simulation in paid social: How creative directors are reviving Baudrillard’s theories to educate liberals” sounds like a conference speech. Ugh. ENJOY!

  • Startups With SoundCloud As Stock Picks: Apparently startups around the world are ripping off SoundCloud’s pictures of their offices and passing them off as their own. Weird. Anyway, this outs them.

  • So Many Seals: Cartoon seals, often wearing an expression of purest existential dread. I don’t know why but I found these VERY poignant (so tired, so very tired).

  • Touchy Game Art: Collecting videogame box art that the curator would like to…er…touch. Not in a sexy way, that I can tell, just that they think it’s cool. And much of it is.

  • This Day In 1D History: Want to know what was happening in 1D fandom exactly X years ago today? WELL NOW YOU CAN! 1D fandom is, I am increasingly discovering, VERY ODD, but if you’re a community manager and want to get some mad numbers then I suggesting running some tweets in the wee hours using some of this stuff and then promoting them. NOONE WILL EVER KNOW (they will know, but).

  • Ron A Day: One cartoon of Ron Swanson, internet favourite from Community. per day. Why not, eh?

  • Shetland Otter Watching: Yes, yes, OK, not actually a Tumblr, but noone actually cares do they? See? Anyway, who doesn’t love otters? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO!

  • Horse With Hands Riding A Bike: Also not a Tumblr, but it SHOULD be. Also, who doesn’t like elaborate drawings of horses with human hands riding bikes? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO!

  • Pigeon Movies: Ok, ok, so the Tumblr selection was a little light this week (trust me, you’re lucky that I’m exercising a slightly greater-than-normal degree of editorial judgment here this week, otherwise it would just be bongo as far as the eye can see). Still, this ANCIENT blog is really useful if you want film reviews which focus entirely on what role pigeons play in any given film.

  • Hardy Boys Covers: The Hardy Boys novels, with alternative titles based on their covers. Childish but funny, and exactly what I was hamfistedly suggesting that someone do with the Boris Karloff comics up there.

  • The Week: The Week has a Tumblr, and it’s rather good – a really nice way of getting a feed of interesting journalism from all over the place.

  • Humans of LA: Included solely for the benefit of the two LA-dwellers who I know sometimes read this, this is probably only funny if you’ve been there. Sorry.

  • Llluvia: Included mainly as an example of what an amazingly flexible platform Tumblr is, Llluvia is a sort-of baffling webart project which I am SO IMPRESSED by. Look at what they’ve done with that Tumblr, JUST LOOK! So beautiful and very slick indeed.


  • On Paris And The Responsibility of the Middle East: Sorry; I know that there’s been endless stuff written on this in the past week and that you probably have read your fill, but in case you haven’t…this first piece was published in US Esquire last weekend and was the first piece that I saw to really outline the need to address the funding of Daesh and the web of state-based interests which ar backing it, and maybe to take steps to address these. Smart, clear, and very unexpected from Esquire.

  • Jeres In Paris: Jeremy Allen is a journalist acquaintance of mine who’s been living in Paris for a few years now with his girlfriend; they were at the football on Friday night when everything happened. This is his story of the evening – one of many, and a very lucky one, but Jeres is a good writer and this piece does an excellent job of transmitting the atmosphere, presuming you’ve not already imbibed too much of the ambience of fear already.

  • The Exploitation of Paris: Short but to-the-point, on exactly how classy it is to use The Bad Thing as a platform for personal pointscoring on any an all issues you might choose. Like you need to be told, obviously, but.

  • Why We Should Call Them Daesh: I found this really interesting, politically, culturally and linguistically; the basic rationale is that Daesh is an abbreviation in Arabic, a language which ordinarily doesn’t do abbreviations, and as such is belittling and offensive to the cause it names. Which I’m not sure if I buy, and even if I did I might fall back on The Fat Controller’s (from Will Self’s ‘My Idea of Fun’) Shakespearan corruption “an arsehole by any other name…”, but the piece is a perspective I’d not read before. Oh, and here’s a Chrome extension which you might find useful if you find the argument compelling.

  • The Refugee Odyssey: Just in case you needed reminding about why there are very good reasons not to go all isolationist and shut the borders. From Der Spiegel, an excellent piece of journalism tracing the stories and journeys tracing across Europe for the past few years.

  • Cynthia Payne’s Obituary: By way of light ‘relief’ (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE? DO YOU??), a shining example of the sort of corruption that THEY hate us for; also, coincidentally, a shining example of the obituarist’s art (on which note, if you like obituaries you will love this novel). Cynthia Payne embodied a particularly British idea of sex, all innuendo and middle-aged men with sock-worn shins babywalking across a thickly-carpeted landing to be spanked, and this is an affectionately absurd tribute to her passing.

  • The Zuckerberg Interview: Fast Company’s BIG CONVERSATION with Zuckerberg and a whole load of other Facebook minions; the access is good, which I imagine guaranteed the slightly fawning tone, but it is hugely interesting – not least in terms of the man, and the company’s, ambitions. It’s also, though, utterly terrifying in some ways – the numbers are MENTAL when you add up all the users of FB-owned properties, and the quote towards the end of the piece, about there never in history having been a business leader who combined Zuckerberg’s youth with his global influence and near-unlimited funds, is legitimately chilling. Got to say, this plus Daesh is a decent enough opening to a not-particularly-cheering scifi dystopia. I am playing too much Fallout, aren’t I?

  • With Singularity Comes Responsibility: Friend of Curios Simon White (that designation could be YOURS, with a few small donations and maybe some beer thrown in) opines on how the web is removing human agency and responsibility and basically making us all stupid meatsacks. He’s not wrong, you know.

  • 5 Things The Media Does To Manufacture Outrage: You probably know this already, but it’s worth repeating – this is an excellent takedown about exactly why, when you read headlines like “Pampers Tweeted about crabs and the internet is OUTRAGED”, you should probably assume that the outlet in question is talking hyperbolic nonsense until proven otherwise. BELIEVE NOTHING. WAKE UP SHEEPLE. ICKE WAS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHIN…ahahhahaha, no, he wasn’t,. honest.

  • Ali’s Last Rounds: Another example of how boxing brings out the very, very best in sports writers, this is an extract from a book all about Ali and details the author witnessing the boxer’s final 5 sparring rounds in a gym in St Louis. Almost unbearably poignant, particularly when you’re my age and you can remember exactly how much of a wreck Ali already was at that stage in the late 80s.

  • The Death of Snark and the Rise of Positive Content: Part of Motherboard’s regular series of dispatches from the content farms, this is a smart piece looking at the gradual erosion of individuality and bite in content production from mainstream media in favour of outsourcing it to John Oliver (yes, the Paris bit was good, but maybe commission your own rather than just recycling theirs).

  • All of New York’s Taxi Data, Analysed: Part of Web Curios’ occasional series of ‘really excellent pieces of data analysis which, I concede, may not be fascinating to everyone but which I reckon you should take at least a passing look at if you’re into datawork and stuff like that’, this is, er, exactly that. If you don’t ‘do’ data, you can probably skip this one.

  • Bootcamp For Kids: When I was at international school there was a kid in my year called Noel Carver (I don’t imagine he Googles himself, but just in case – HI NOEL!) who was a few years older than us and was all intense and moody and American and who all the girls ADORED, and who used to regale us with (on reflection, possibly made-up) stories of being sent to kiddie bootcamp back in Iowa where he was stuck in the middle of nowhere with a kid who’d been sent there for sleeping with his sister and where he learned to sleep with a knife under his pillow. ANYWAY, whether that was true or not, this piece about actual kiddie bootcamps for problem teens is pretty much horrifying and makes you think that perhaps outsourcing your parenting to a bunch of psycho ex-Marine-types isn’t a great idea overall.

  • Leaving Westboro: Very long but fascinating read, about how online poster child for the hatemongers at Westboro Baptist Church learned humanity through Twitter (no, really). Sort of a ‘how to deprogramme a cult member through social media 101’ guide, should you need such a thing.

  • The People Behind Erowid: You know Erowid, right? Literally the BEST place to fall into a drugstories rabbithole, and the first port of call should you be interested in experimenting with anything rather more non-traditional than your class A, B or Cs. I can highly recommend the sections on Datura, by the way, should you want a cast-iron deterrent to your teenage kids getting too experimental. Anyway, this piece is a truly fascinating interview with the two people behind it, who call themselves Earth and Fire and are a truly awesome pair of middle-aged hippies. God love them and their hempy, liberal stylings.

  • VICE Goes To Sexpo: The ‘hey, let’s send a reporter along to a weird event and get them to talk about the weird!’ editorial gambit is not a new one (my friend Iain, when a staffer at the Telegraph, used to call himself the humiliation correspondent, such was the regularity with which he was sent off to try naked speed dating on camels or somesuch HILARIOUS caper) , but Lucy Hancock does a sterling job here. It’s worth it for the (borderline NSFW) photos alone, particularly of the dinopenis. God, the dinopenis (it’s honestly not what you think).

  • Why Star Wars May Never End: Wired on how there may never in fact be an end to stuff made in the Star Wars Universe. Ever. Ever ever ever (spoilers: because money). I think I said this recently, but I’m increasingly of the opinion that if this sort of cultural future – endless, near-homogenous parades of fanservice pap designed to feed the growing mass of emotionally stunted manchildren (ahem, yes, fine, point taken) – is the result of the bullied-at-school-crowd of the 70s finally getting their revenge on the jocks, then, well, maybe the jocks were right. Anyway, whatever your opinions on Star Wars this is actually quite interesting on multiplatform storytelling and transmedia and branching narratives and stuff, should you care about that sort of thing.

  • Hammer and Sickle – A DeLillo Short: From Prospect Magazine, a new short story by Don DeLillo. I confess to never having particularly got on with DeLillo, but I very much enjoyed this satire on high finance and power and punishment and THE FUTURE.

  • An Art Without an Artwork: The second-best writing in here this week, this is an astonishingly good piece about chess and amateur players playing at public tables in the US (I once tried doing this in Washington DC 15 years ago – legitimately one of the most intellectually humiliating experiences of my life, no question) and the peculiar qualities of the game, and oh look just click the link, it’s WONDERFUL.

  • Playing God: This, though, is honestly one of the best things I have read all year. The unprepossessing setup is that of a man talking about his obsession  with his model village, but it’s so much more than that – it’s funny and angry and pathetic and the bits where he talks about his relationship and his parents and money and the nature of his obsession and, again, oh look just click the link it’s BETTER THAN WONDERFUL. Seriously, if you only read one thing this weekend, make it this one.


By Nguan


1) First up, a band called Earthly, with their track Glaze – all skittery electro and a lovely hand-drawn animation which is all movement and motorbikes and is quite reminiscent of Take on Me, which is obviously no bad thing:

2) Next up, the inevitable co-opting of the Deep Dream video phenomenon (see Curios passim for previous efforts by less famous artists) by a BIG BAND, in this case the peculiarly unloveable (to me at least) Years & Years, for their track ‘An Artificial Experience’. Can we declare this over now? Probably not until David Guetta’s had a go, sadly:

3) I am a sucker both for punk and for violent claymation, so this video, for Radkey’s song ‘Glore’, ticks a LOT of my personal boxes. If you like the gory work of Lee Hardcastle then you will LOVE this, though you will probably enjoy it even if you don’t. Even if you hate punk, it’s only two minutes long so give it a go:

4) Videos made on Kinect aren’t new – God knows I have featured enough of them here over the past few years – but this one, for Sissi Rada’s creepy track ‘Sunday’ (don’t know why,but I find it really unsettling) is an excellent example of the genre and features some pretty cool effects I’ve not seen before:

5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! Bit worthy, this, but the cause is a good one. Released by Rapman and SBTV to highlight awareness of suicides amongst young men, the track, called ‘Rollercoaster’, shows how things can go wrong quickly and simply and how people can often have noone to talk to and feel compelled to top themselves. So, you know, don’t top yourselves:

6) Meet internet sensation The Grindmother – a grandmother who sings grindcore. This song probably has a title, but it’s sort of immaterial – hear the SCREAMS!:  

7) Years ago, back in the H+K days, I put a work by Vernibus in the pictures here; this is a video showing him at work on the posters of New York Fashion Week. I would give actual limbs to own one of these, they are GORGEOUS:

8) Last up this week, I love this song. It is tripphoppy and beautiful and the vocals are a tortured mess and I don’t understand how it only has 500-odd views. This is Seyr, with ‘A Love’. BYE! HAVE FUN! LET’S NOT THEM WIN, EH? BYE!:

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